December 25, 2011

We Should Scour the Moon for Ancient Traces of Aliens, Say Scientists (Source: Guardian)
Hundreds of thousands of pictures of the moon will be examined for telltale signs that aliens once visited our cosmic neighbourhood if plans put forward by scientists go ahead. Passing extraterrestrials might have left messages, scientific instruments, heaps of rubbish or evidence of mining on the dusty lunar surface that could be spotted by human telescopes and orbiting spacecraft.

Though the chances of finding the handiwork of long-gone aliens are exceptionally remote, scientists argue that a computerized search of lunar images, or a crowd-sourced analysis by amateur enthusiasts, would be cheap enough to justify given the importance of a potential discovery.

Prof Paul Davies and Robert Wagner at Arizona State University argue that images of the moon and other information collected by scientists for their research should be scoured for signs of alien intervention. The proposal aims to complement other hunts for alien life, such as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which draws on data from radiotelescopes to scour the heavens for messages beamed into space by alien civilisations. (12/25)

Newt's 'Zany' Space Policy (Source: PJ Media)
His recent criticism of Newt Gingrich's recent space comments is another flip flop for Romney, who seemed quite supportive of lunar activities in his previous run for the presidency, when he offered some remarks at the Kennedy Space Center after a tour of the Shuttle: "...Clearly, as I’ve said before, I support the NASA program, the president’s vision program, which consists of a manned space mission back to the moon, as well as an ongoing mission to Mars..."

The “president’s vision program” actually consisted of more than a “manned space mission back to the moon.” Though it was being disastrously implemented by NASA at the time, it was actually a program to establish a human lunar base there, one of whose purposes was to “mine minerals” (specifically, water with which to make rocket propellant and help with life support to reduce the costs of space operations). In other words, pretty much what he has been ridiculing Newt for supporting for the past week and a half.

In 2009, when President Obama came out with a new space policy that emphasized competitive commercial services for crew delivery to orbit, and the development of new technologies that would make human spaceflight beyond earth orbit much more affordable, Gingich was one of the few Republicans to come out in support of it (Bob Walker and Dana Rohrabacher were others). ... What would a Romney space policy look like? Given that you’ve elevated the topic in the campaign, I think that those of us to whom space is important deserve to know. (12/25)

NASA Still Lacks Priorities and Direction for Future (Source: Florida Today)
Three years since President Obama decided to change course, the nation's space policy remains paralyzed and overanalyzed. That’s not the president’s fault alone. Congress is equally to blame. The White House spent more than a year deciding what to do differently. Since then, it’s not been able to get a buy-in from Congress. As the fight over details continues and the nation operates yet another year without a real federal budget, national space policy remains foggy.

The people in Washington need to set a course, fund that plan and hold NASA and its contractors fully accountable for implementing it. As things stand, not even space program leaders seem to know their priorities. Notice, more money wasn’t the wish. The nation needs to set priorities and then allocate whatever money is available for NASA to the priorities. That might mean less gets spent on space exploration, but the funds should be targeted to the most important priorities, and other space projects that are not essential ought to be dropped. (12/25)

Siberian Man Unharmed as Satellite Debris Crashes Through Roof (Source: RIA Novosti)
A Siberian resident miraculously escaped serious injury or even death when a fragment of a Russian communication satellite crashed through the roof of his house. A Meridian satellite that was launched on Friday from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia on board a Soyuz-2 carrier rocket crashed near the Siberian city of Tobolsk minutes after liftoff.

Eight satellite fragments were found in an area some 100 kilometers from the city of Novosibirsk. One, a titanium ball of about five kilograms, fell on to the roof of a village house in the Ordyn district. The house owner, Andrei Krivorukov, had gone out to the yard to fetch firewood minutes before the crash. The village administration promised to do repairs at its own expense. (12/25)

The Strange Case of the Christmas Burst (Source: Scientific American)
How did the Christmas gamma-ray burst explode? No, it’s not a geeky Christmas cracker joke, it’s a real question scientists have been trying to answer since Christmas day last year, when a gamma-ray burst called GRB 101225A first lit up the sky. The Christmas burst, as its come to be known, exhibted some rather unusual characteristics.

Gamma-ray bursts are short-lived flashes of gamma rays, made up of light that is more energetic than x-rays. Most are thought to be the result of massive stellar explosions in distant galaxies. Bursts can be over in milliseconds or last for several minutes, but no longer than that. After they finish they leave behind a longer-lived afterglow that can survive into weeks and months. While they last, they are the brightest objects in the known universe. (12/25)

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